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Why ASI stand on Puri Heritage Corridor construction has put BJP at loggerheads with Naveen Patnaik’s BJD in Odisha

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After a joint investigation by state government officials and the ASI, the central body said that the required permission by competent authorities weren’t granted and the construction activities might be endangering the temple’s structural safety.

The construction of the Puri Heritage Corridor has snowballed into a major political controversy with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)’s latest submission in the Orissa High Court stating that the ongoing construction activities without any valid permission might have caused damage to the iconic Jagannath temple.

After a joint investigation by state government officials and the ASI, the central body said that the required permission by competent authorities weren’t granted and the construction activities might be endangering the temple’s structural safety.

Earlier, an affidavit was filed in the Orissa High Court after a PIL in April stating concerns over the construction activities undertaken around the prohibited zone of 12th century Jagannath Puri temple complex.

The Naveen Patnaik-led BJD government has come under fire from the BJP over the execution of the Puri project. After ASI’s recent stand, the political tussle between the two parties has only intensified.

Few days back, BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra demanded that the work in the prohibited zone be stopped, accusing the BJD government of the state of carrying out the project illegally.

Patra, who unsuccessfully contested the Puri Lok Sabha seat in 2019, on Wednesday charged the BJD administration with undertaking the heritage corridor project work in an “illegal” manner.

BJP MP Aparajita Sarangi had also demanded that the work for the project be stopped immediately after the ASI informed the high court that they never gave any permission to carry on with the constructive activities in the prohibited zone of the temple complex.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik along with Puri’s titular king Gajapati Dibya Singha Deb had last year laid the foundation stone for the project which seeks to provide better amenities to pilgrims, including toilets and cloakrooms.

The state had informed the court that correspondences were exchanged between the Odisha government and the National Monuments Authority (NMA), which functions under the Union Ministry of Culture and is responsible for grant of permission for construction-related activity in the “prohibited and regulated” areas.

(With inputs from PTI)

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